Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bolinas Blackberry Pie

My mother used to read Blueberries for Sal to me before bed when I was small.  It was one of my favorite books, in part because eating my way through a bush of blueberries as Sal does seemed like a brilliant idea, and in part because the mother-child mix-up that happens is classic.

This Labor Day weekend, I drove out to rural Marin County to see my dad, and relieve him of some blackberries which grow [a little too] wild in his yard. He hacked at the brambles with a machete while my dog ran amok and I got lost (practically) picking berries. I imagine blackberry bushes are a little more violent than blueberry bushes, since Sal's hands and legs didn't look like mine when she, the bears, and her mom were done picking. Bear claws, though, are pretty near the top of the Potentially Damaging hierarchy.

Since I didn't have to compete with bears, I gathered about nine cups of blackberries. That doesn't include all the ones I ate as I picked, or the ones I dropped as my skin snagged on a thorn and I cursed the entire universe. I gave about a cup to my dad-- I wasn't being stingy. He didn't want more -- and took the rest home to bake in a pie.

I wound up tossing out about a cup of berries this morning, since some were just past their peak. Apparently, blackberries' peak lasts about 3 seconds. Others just got crushed from the weight of the other eight cups stacked on top of them. I froze about a cup to use in smoothies later, so used about six cups of berries in the pie.  I didn't have an official blackberry pie recipe to use, so I combined elements from a few different pie and fruit tart sources, and created what just might become an annual tradition.

For the crust, I used a recipe from Vegetarian Times I'd cut out ages ago but hadn't used yet. The ingredients are simple and the method is easy-- basically, everything is thrown in the food processor and pulsed until the dough comes together. I've already written an ode to the Food Processor (Wo)Man for this very thing; it turns out a perfect crust every time. My lattice was a little gangly and uneven, but for my first attempt, it was Not Bad At All.

For the filling, I started with brown sugar, and lots of it.  My dad and I both noticed that the berries were not as sweet as they've been in years past, which my dad attributes to the lack of warm sunny days this summer. I think it may also be that the brambles are being choked by the two other invasive vines spewing over from other people's yards. (Several blackberry species have also been deemed invasive here in California. Eh, potayto, potahto...) Property lines and semantics aside, I added a little cornstarch to thicken the soupy mess the berries were becoming, and a little lemon juice to brighten up the whole thing.  This is also what goes into the filling for the Rustic Fruit Tart I wrote about. Except with blackberries. Not plums.

I blind-baked the crust to prevent it from getting soggy from berry juice. The problem with this method is that the top edges of the crust brown long before all the rest of it, and sometimes even burn before the pie is ready. The logical solution would be to blind-bake it for less time, but then the bottom wouldn't be baked enough to stay, well, crusty. I might try covering the edges with extra parchment paper next time, with some kind of clamping or folding trick to make the paper stay in place over the edge.  

All things considered, the pie is perfect for the end of summer. It even has tan lines.   

Fine. I admit it. The crust recipe didn't make enough dough for crust AND lattice.

I know! I was a little worried about the whole machete/dog/me combination, too! But I made it out alive. And so did the dog.

Bolinas Blackberry Pie

*If you choose to create a lattice (or any other) design on top, you will need to a) make 1.25 times this amount of dough (use extra water instead of 1/4 egg); b) set aside a small quantity of the dough as you begin Step 5a.  This way, you will create extra dough for the lattice, and still have the original quantity for the crust. 
** Pre-bake times have been adjusted to account for my mistakes. You may need to add another minute or two onto your time.

For the crust
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 TBSP sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick (1/2 C) cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 egg yolk
1/4 C ice water

1. Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in food processor a few times to combine. Add butter, and pulse 5-6 times, or until mixture resembles coarse sand. 
2. Beat egg yolk and ice water in small bowl with fork. Add to flour mixture in food processor. Pulse just until dough comes together. 
3. Transfer dough to piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Press into a flat disk. Wrap tightly and refrigerate at least one hour (or overnight). 
4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
5a. On a well-floured surface, roll out dough into a circle approximately 1/4" thick and 14" in diameter for a 9" pie plate. Lay crust over pie plate, pressing lightly into bottom and sides. Create a fluted design, if you wish, around the edges by lightly pinching the overhang. 
5b. Also roll out dough reserved for lattice into rectangular shape, 1/4" thick and 11" wide. Cut rectangle into long strips. Set aside.
6. Place parchment paper over the crust (you can cut a circle to fit the bottom, or you can lay strips across the crust that overlap) and weigh down the paper with dried beans. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove beans and parchment paper and bake for another 5 minutes. Top of crust should be just beginning to brown.
7. Reduce heat to 350 degrees.

For the filling
6 C ripe blackberries, washed 
3 TBSP cornstarch
2/3 C brown or granulated sugar (adjust slightly according to sweetness of berries)
1 TBSP lemon juice
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest (optional)

1. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir gently to combine, coating berries well.
2. Pour berry mixture into pre-baked pie crust. Arrange lattice strips on top.
3. Bake for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. 
4. Cool on wire rack for as long as you can wait. 
5. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

No comments:

Post a Comment